Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Do As I Say?

My little guy is still figuring out how to make his words. Don't get me wrong, he talks non-stop all day long, but the words coming out of his mouth don't always sound exactly like American English. They often sound like a combination of Mandarin and puppy. Sometimes this results in frustration on both our parts, and sometimes it results in a lengthy game of charades and please guess the important thing I am telling you now before I internally combust.

These games are particularly frustrating when my little guy has something important to tell me when I am driving. Normally my big guy will interpret and pass the important message along to me so we can get it figured out. This morning we went through the process yet again: lengthy detailed story, charades, a misinterpretation, a corrected interpretation, excitement over correct interpretation.

I laughed when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw him sitting so happily in his carseat after we correctly interpreted his speech. He was calm, euphoric.

I was reminded again of the significance of communication. How important are words? Are we always so urgent and passionate with our speech? Does it really all begin with those first words while the baby is holding a drippy sippy cup and wearing a diaper?

We all want to be interpreted correctly.  How many times have I written an email or a text or said quick words without weighing them first, only to have my thoughts all tangled up in a big mess. It only takes a minute for simple little words—spoken or written, to become a powerful, sometimes hurtful, sometimes dangerous tool. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (James 3:5)

We are currently training our little guy with the use of one of his favorite words: “No.” Since he spent the first year of his life hearing...
  • “No! Don't touch the socket!”
  • “NO! Don't stand up in the tub!”
  • “NO! DON'T HIT YOUR SISTER!!!” doesn't surprise me that we eventually had to backtrack and explain that “No” shouldn't rank #1 on his list of favorite words. Now that he is finally past the age of munching marbles from under the couch and treating anything (and everyone) as a teething toy, it is time to use the word “No” more carefully. It is his first power word, and it's time to train him that no should be used kindly and thoughtfully.

In the meantime, while I am attempting to focus on these things with my kids, speaking kindly, speaking without pride, speaking to encourage, speaking without complaining, the weather vane arrow keeps snapping back around and pointing at me square in the face. I don't think it's possible to teach your two year old to stop saying “No” if you are constantly screeching “NO! Stop!!” from various rooms of the house or the front seat of the van. In the same way, I doubt our little ones will learn to “do all things without complaining and disputing” with each other if I whine every time I have to take out the trash or mop up yet another tall glass of spilled milk. It will be hard for my kids to really learn to place the desires of others above themselves if I pat myself on the back whenever I go about my good deeds for the day.

What a challenge! I am trying to remove the use of the word “overwhelmed” from my vocabulary thanks in part to some great advice in Rachel Jankovic's book Loving the Little Years.  But our words and how we choose to use them in front of our little ones is a daunting responsibility. I could spend every minute for the rest of my life attempting to only say encouraging things to everyone, and I would still blow it. I would still find myself running late with 3 kids trying to find a missing shoe while gathering up car snacks and finding missing keys, only to start the car and remember the gas tank is empty. It is so hard to impart grace to my angelic cherubs at that moment. 

But in that moment, I have a choice. In that moment I can make a habit out of calmly evaluating the circumstances and remembering those 3 sets of little ears are listening and those 6 little blue eyes are watching. In that moment, everything we have been telling them about our words are put to a visual test, and they will be keeping score. I need to stop telling myself that I'm just tired or there wasn't enough coffee or I am too busy to calmly respond, because I don't accept those kinds of excuses from my kids.

I am thankful, when the silly, crazy moment gets the best of me, that kids are so quick to forgive. I am thankful for a long hug-fest on the couch to make amends. 
I love these thoughts on 20 Resolutions to Taming the Tongue. If you haven't checked it out before, you will find it challenging.  As I spend time training our kids how to wield their tiny words, it's a great reminder that I am being molded, too! 


  1. Thanks for this! I know it's true but I don't know what is the alternative. My boy just turned 23 months and he is very advanced verbally and physically (crawling at 5m, walking at 10m, jumping with both feet before 18m etc). So what DO I say when I catch him squeezing out honey all over the kitchen counter, or throwing rubbish in the pool, or, or, or.... ? I don't want to be the one screaming "NO NO NO!!" all the time. Poor guy, he is just so very curious and also try to copy everything Mom & Dad are doing - with all the wrong stuff.

  2. Hey Riette! I am definitely not "Super Nanny" and I don't pretend to be a person worthy of offering advice here, but I can sympathize! It is hard--especially with a child who is full of energy and a daredevil (I have one of those.) I would just encourage you to be sure you are setting clear boundaries and remove as many temptations as you can until he is big enough to understand. Above all--let your "no" mean no. When he tests something he knows is off limits, follow through with your consequences. It will get better soon--it is a draining age, but also very fun! :)


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